Russell Pearce's "Sham" Candidate Olivia Cortes' Date in Court This Thursday (w/Update)

Will Lisa Hauser end up defending Olivia Cortes as well? I wouldn't be surprised.
Will Lisa Hauser end up defending Olivia Cortes as well? I wouldn't be surprised.

UPDATE 7:11PM IN A DISAPPOINTING DEVELOPMENT, TOM RYAN INFORMS ME THAT HE'S RETHINKING WHAT TO DO WITH THE LAWSUIT IN LIGHT OF THE FACT THAT THE BALLOTS HAVE BEEN PRINTED AND SOME HAVE ALREADY GONE OUT, AS IS MENTIONED BELOW. WHETHER OR NOT HE'LL CONTINUE TO PURSUE IT IN ANY FORM SEEMS A QUESTION MARK AT THIS POINT. MORE AS I GET IT.

UPDATE NUMBER TWO 11PM: JUST RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE FROM ATTORNEY TOM RYAN: "I AM NOT DISMISSING THE LAWSUIT AND I AM GOING DOWN ON THURSDAY FOR THE HEARING. I REALLY LIKE KAREN OSBORNE, BUT I ALSO LIKE THE ARIZONA CONSTITUTION." 

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke will preside over a hearing this Thursday in a lawsuit brought by elections law attorney Tom Ryan, alleging that Olivia Cortes' candidacy for state Senator in the upcoming Legislative District 18 recall election is "fraudulent and diversionary...within the meaning of Arizona law."

The suit is brought on behalf of LD 18 Republican Mary Lou Boettcher, a supporter of the recall and a critic of state Senate President Russell Pearce. In the complaint Ryan filed this past Friday, Ryan asked that the court enjoin County Elections from distributing ballots with Cortes' name and keep her name off the ballot altogether.

According to County Elections Director Karen Osborne, the ballots have been printed. Military and oversees ballots have already been sent out. Remaining early ballots are set to be mailed out by October 13. 

If Ryan's suit seems like a Hail Mary pass, it has more going for it than you might think. First off, Ryan successfully defended a lawsuit against Citizens for a Better Arizona. That lawsuit, brought on behalf of Pearce supporter (and Cortes-petition-circulator, natch) Franklin B. Ross by attorney Lisa Hauser, was dismissed and the dismissal was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court.

But aside from Ryan's competence, he alleges that laws have been broken and the state constitution will be violated should the election go forward with Cortes' name on the ballot. 

Cortes' actions will "affect the purity of the November 8, 2011 Recall Election," according to the suit. And Aricle VII, Section 12 of the Arizona Constitution declares that, "There shall be enacted registration and other laws to secure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the elective franchise."

Moreover, there's possibly a class five felony being committed, specifically A.R.S. 16-1006, which states the following:

Changing vote of elector by corrupt means or inducement; classification

A. It is unlawful for a person knowingly by force, threats, menaces, bribery or any corrupt means, either directly or indirectly:

1. To attempt to influence an elector in casting his vote or to deter him from casting his vote.

2. To attempt to awe, restrain, hinder or disturb an elector in the free exercise of the right of suffrage.

3. To defraud an elector by deceiving and causing him to vote for a different person for an office or for a different measure than he intended or desired to vote for.

B. A person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a class 5 felony.

And there is court precedent regarding sham candidates. In a 1959 case, the Arizona Supreme Court remanded back to the lower court Griffin vs. Buzard, in which a candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission had been placed on the ballot with the sole intention of siphoning votes away from another candidate with a similar name.

In that ruling, the Supremes indicated that, "The courts must be alert to preserving the purity of elections and its doors must not be closed to hearing charges of deception and fraud that in any way impede the exercise of a free elective franchise."

That ruling actually came after the election at issue. Nevertheless, the court allowed the case to proceed to trial.

The Arizona Attorney General could investigate this alleged felony, but at this point, it doesn't seem interested in doing so.

When I asked the AG's flack Amy Rezzonico about a possible investigation, she replied, "Appears it is being handled in a civil action."

Though that would not keep it from being investigated by the AG.

Over at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, spokesman Jerry Cobb told me that, "MCAO has not received a complaint on this matter nor are we investigating the allegations you reference."

Horne's inaction is particularly telling. Keep in mind that he initiated an investigation of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission for possible Open Meetings Law violations, for the most part, on the basis of what he'd read in the Arizona Capitol Times' Yellow Sheet and in right-wing blogs.

By now, nearly every news outlet in town has reported on Cortes' dubious candidacy, and the fact that she continues to hide from reporters and the public in spite of a campaign Web site put up in her name, and a recent hoax, announcing a campaign event for this past Saturday that never materialized.

In fact, videographer Dennis Gilman and I went to Cortes' home yet again this past Saturday morning, but there was no activity. Along with a news crew from Channel 15, we knocked on Cortes' front and back doors. No one answered.

Were roles reversed, and Cortes was a sham candidate promulgated by the Democratic Party, how long do you think it would take for the AG to initiate an investigation?

I'm guessing in the bat of an eye.

Note: I'm not clear on whether the MCAO could initiate a probe into this matter, though it seems clear that the AG could, if it wanted, based on the statute. I've corrected the text above to reflect this. Sorry for any confusion.


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >